Chapter 38: The new adventures of Don Quixote

The pirates returned to the inn and decided to leave for the Parrot Forests immediately. They were certain the witches would try to hunt them down and punish them for freeing the mermaids, and they wanted as much distance between the township and the tunnels and caves and anywhere else they had encountered the witches as they possibly could.

To Harrison Gus’ deep disappointment Alan was not fit enough to come along, so the party going to the forests would comprise Harrison Gus, Captain Greeneye, Gago the navigator (with the hope that he could navigate as well on land as he did at sea), Cook for his cooking (though it seemed to Harrison Gus rather a stretch to call Cook’s cooking “cooking”. Harrison Gus felt Cook’s real skill was his ability to throw together a selection of delectable ingredients into a great, big pot and boil it all until the mixture was devoid of any flavor whatsoever), Starfish, TT, and Sir Jones.

Sir Jones remained anxious to come along despite being a devoted lover of the comforts of life, having no mountaineering or wilderness skills whatsoever, and living in perpetual fear of spiders, centipedes, lizards, snakes and almost every other living thing found in the jungle.  Even the vines winding around the trees and dangling down across their path gave him the willies.  The piles of fallen leaves and fruit and other detritus at his feet spooked him at every step because he couldn’t stop thinking of all the creepy creatures that might be hiding in there.  The very particles dancing in the air in front of them frightened him.  Who knew what tiny, killer bugs and insects hovered there waiting for a succulent victim to wander by.  But he was quite prepared to endure it all if it meant there was a chance he could continue to get reading lessons from Harrison Gus.  Sir Jones liked to pretend he was a gentleman and not an outlaw and a pirate, and gentlemen could read.

Deadfish was not coming.  He would escort Alan back onto the Black Dagger to recuperate in safety and then he had his own mysterious little secret things he wanted to do.  No-one questioned him.  Harrison Gus suspected it was because they feared him and his recent witchery.  Harrison Gus certainly wasn’t about to ask Deadfish what he was going to do.

Lucien, the Captain’s traitorous parrot, was going back to the ship with Deadfish and Alan, and was to be kept in a cloaked cage down in the sail locker with Alan’s parrot… chicken… Pig… whatever.

Deadfish and Alan gathered their things for their return to the ship while the others busied themselves dividing up supplies into packs for each of them to carry.  Harrison Gus could feel himself getting more and more excited and nervous.  They were going to the Parrot Forests at last, to find a parrot for Harrison Gus and make him a real pirate!

It was time to say goodbye to Alan.

“I’m sorry you can’t come”, Harrison Gus said with tears in his eyes.  The knowledge that it was because of him that Alan was so sickly weighed on him like the heavy keel of the Black Dagger itself.

“It’s ok boy” Alan said with a grin.  “Just make sure ye get y’self a good parrot, like my Pig.  A decent, kind parrot – that’s a pretty special talent, wouldn’t ye say?”

Deadfish grunted.  “Ye’d be better gettin’ an honest parrot than a kind ‘un.  Kindness is as common as… chickens”, he said.  Alan did not bat an eyelid at this pointed reference to his parrot, who was, it must be said, a chicken.

“Listen te me boy”, Alan said.  “J’st get a good ‘un, not a fancy ‘un like Sir Jones’ pretty bird.”

At this Deadfish grunted and pulled Alan away by the scruff of his shirt, depositing him in a long boat that was ready to go.  He stepped in himself and threw the sack containing Lucien rather rudely into the back.  The bag screeched.  The boat moved out to sea.  Harrison Gus waved, the Captain at his side.

As the boat tipped over the top of the incoming tide Harrison Gus and the Captain turned away and headed back across the beach, passed the Sleeping Dog where they picked up the others, and quickly and quietly the whole party of pirates disappeared into the wood behind the town.

Having put some distance between them and the town they turned east, towards a place called Dodo Rock.  The Parrot Forests were, Harrison Gus was told, not far north of the Rock.  Why Dodo Rock was called Dodo Rock no-one could explain to him.  Some of the men said it was because it looked like a Dodo, others said that it had been populated by dodos at one time, and still others said it was because nothing would live on it at all.  The argument carried on for many miles.

In the evening TT and Starfish cleared an area of bush and built a fire.  Cook took a large pot out of his pot-shaped pack and gathered ingredients from various other packs.  He dug his walking stick into the soil next to the fire and Cook’s big blue parrot quickly settled itself on top of it, watching his master add herbs and spices and vegetables, and stir and taste the brew.

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Harrison Gus shook his head.  All the meticulous care Cook seemed to be taking was all for nought, he was certain.  It would end up tasting like cardboard and sweat in the end.

The Captain took a walk around the area to find positions to post a watch in case the witches should come sniffing nearby.  Gago and Sir Jones would take the first watch and went with him.  While Cook was… cooking, TT, Starfish and Harrison Gus pitched a couple of makeshift tents using cloth and branches.  Then they settled by the fire, waiting for dinner.  The Captain soon returned.  He nudged Harrison Gus with the corner of a thick book.  It was Don Quixote.

“Feel like reading to us a spell?” Captain Greeneye asked Harrison Gus.  Harrison Gus held the book for a moment.  It felt pleasantly heavy in his hands.  He leafed through the pages, found a likely chapter and began to read.

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It took until darkness had fallen for Harrison Gus to reach the part of the story where Don Quixote wakes from his slumber after receiving a beating to find all his books and the very room they’d lived in had altogether disappeared, carried off, so his friends and family said, by a great magician with a grudge against Quixote.  Quixote readily accepted this explanation and remained quietly at home.  Or so they thought!  Some two weeks later Don Quixote left his family for new adventures, convincing a farmer, Sancho Panza, “with very little wit in his pate”, to be his esquire and accompany him.

New adventures, Harrison Gus thought, smiling.  He stretched and yawned.  The pirates climbed into various hammocks strung between trees or grabbed cuts of cloth and wrapped themselves up to keep warm and curled up near the fire or in the tents.

The watch changed a couple of times during the night but Harrison Gus didn’t notice.  He slept through the night like the child he was, innocent and quiet, his arms stretched above his head in surrender, his chest rising and falling rhythmically like the gently undulating waves on a calm sea.

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